“Anima” is a spectacular performance installation designed by director Maëlle Poésy and visual artist photographer Noémie Goudal. On a triptych of giant screens, scroll images of palm trees, rocks, a cave and water … to calmly provoke a charitable shock between the Earth’s breath with its 4.5 billion years of existence and its short human existence. Meet.
RFI : Your show is disturbing. To the unbelieving eyes of the spectators, images and realities, our visions of time and space, and our certainty are broken down. Of what “ anima We talk ?
Maelle Poesy : We talk about the soul, the animation of the living and everything that breathes. When we talk about the geography of our planet and the “deep time”, the time of the Earth, for us, it was important to also talk about its inherent life. For this it is called Anima.
You’re a plastic photographer. A large part of your creation consists of a triptych in permanent metamorphosis, composed of three large screens of 5 meters by 5 meters. Images projected on canvases, it’s theater ? A kind of picture theater ?
Noemie Goudal : For me, the three screens are primarily there to create an immersive shape. In the theater, we have a sense of an audience scene. The public was invited inside this unit. It’s not quite theater. The idea of this performance is to mix theater, video and photography and try to create a completely hybrid form that is neither one nor the other.
The water-soluble paper that you use in a spectacular way, it has an actor role in this device ?
Noemie Goudal : Yes, he will be an actor. It’s getting lively. It is a paper that is extremely valuable to me because it allowed me in my work as a visual artist to move from still photography to moving photography. By simply adding a drop of water, we have a decomposition that is quite direct and magical.
From what need, from what haste, this creation was born ?
Maelle Poesy : From the very strong desire to work from scientific research that Noémie works with in photography. Because the question of time, of “deep time”, the time of the Earth, will eventually meet our human time. We both really wanted to work on the issue of metamorphosis. By trying to have a poetic and sensitive perception of the past, we also wanted to ask a poetic and sensitive question about our future.
You’re passionate about paleoclimatology and deep time “This show is also about highlighting our”. superficiality as people fighting global warming ?
Noemie Goudal : In any case, it is to put us back in our place, to send us back to our extremely short existence in a world that has an extremely long history. This is where paleoclimatology is an extremely dizzying science. It is perhaps a little too complex for the human brain to really realize that we live in a world where we can touch rocks that are much older than us. It’s a dizzying exercise for all of us. I was talking to a young scientist who is studying water droplets encased in rocks in Brittany that go back 300 million years. And she explained to me that at the time, Brittany was at the equator glued to Texas. We find inside these rocks an extremely long story. This is where my interest in paleoclimatology comes from, because it is a science, but it also leads to much broader philosophical questions.
Your definition of this show is “installation performance”. One can also say that it is a play without a single word. Is this your ideal theater, a theater without words ?
Maelle Poesy : To me, it’s not a play, it’s a performance installation. With Noémie, we were looking for something that could show this hybridity. So for me, it was very important that people did not expect a show, as one can sometimes expect in Avignon, with actors going into the set to tell a story. It is another form of storytelling that will be supported. Suddenly he had to give a name so we do not distort public expectations.
You still manage to disrupt the established order of our existence, to disrupt our usual perception of things, to amaze us when the so-called real palm turns out to be a picture on photo paper. What we look at is not what we look at in the end, there is a reversal of roles, a kind of revolution in our vision.
Noemie Goudal : Yes, and it’s also about returning to a form of craft, for construction. It is a performance made by man, by the hand of man. And we wanted that texture. These are static shots, sequences, with a camera mounted and all the elements moving in front of the camera. There is an element of fragility that works. There are things that happen and do not quite go the way we wanted. That’s just it, strength too. The construction, all these pieces of paper that we see, was also a way to show this fragility and involve the spectator a little more in the construction and the metamorphosis. These are not 3D or studio-made videos. Everything was done by hand. For us, it was extremely important.
Maelle Poesy : Our camera was fixed, in the sequence images we really see the set, layers of sets, one behind the other, which evolve, destroy each other, rebuild themselves. So there is a chance for the temporary due to the shooting. This chance for time collides with what we offer of craftsmanship.
The performance aspect comes into play with the acrobat Chloé Moglia. For very long minutes it hangs on one hand, somewhere, 4 meters high, creating unimaginable movements, extremely slowed down. It provides substance to time and space on a human scale. Is it some kind Moon walk in geological time?
Maelle Poesy : For Noémie and me, Chloé Moglia, the woman suspended in the air, meant being able to have someone who embodied our present in this metamorphosis of the past and this metamorphosis that is coming. Its peculiarity: when you look at it, you breathe at the same time as it. We are “suspended” with it in time. For us, it was very powerful that she could embody this strength and this fragility in space.
You confront the spectators in a very intense way with geological time, with the breaths from “ deep time “. Is it an anti-anthropocentric show where man is no longer at the center ?
Noemie Goudal : Precisely, it’s a question of “déanthropocentres” … It’s clear that it’s a play made by the man, it’s him who thinks and is behind it all. But the idea is to have a vision: to try to rethink the world, precisely without putting man at the center. It is an extremely difficult exercise. It’s like looking down on your life – from birth to now – from above. As if we were a spectator from above. The idea is to try to understand, to put back in your head a temporality that would not necessarily include our time.
Your performance installation demonstrates an impressive ability to get the public to respond. Already in the beginning, when only the jungle appeared on the big screens accompanied by the screams of wild animals, this image made a spectator exclaim : “ Daktari ! “ [série américaine des années 1960 sur un vétérinaire installé en Afrique qui protège la faune locale contre les braconniers, NDLR]. Very quickly, the images become more and more catchy, captivating, destabilizing, so that in public they feel a real pleasure of destruction by fire. Do you feel that you have created a new kind of artistic expression ?
Maelle Poesy : Yes it’s for sure. We really worked on the issue of temporality in paleoclimatology. The challenge was to temporalize it in the representation. Hence the sequence image where we go in and get carried away. Sound, created by Chloé Thévenin, is still a layer of possible time, and the temporality of the music is not the same. It creates this complexity of listening to the moment of fire and these waves of sensations and emotions. This makes it possible to enter into an extremely meditative temporality, but at the same time very active for the spectator.
Noemie Goudal : Fire has a double role, and we played with that. Fire is destructive, destructive and at the same time revealing. Once he has devoured one landscape, he will allow another to emerge. And it takes us back to the history of geology because it goes beyond our planet, and it is also an extremely important source of energy.
►Animacreated by Noémie Goudal and Maëlle Poésy at the Festival d’Avignon, until July 16 at the Cour Montfaucon in the Lambert Collection.